2. About the Poet – Kamala Das
◦ Kamala Das (1934-2009) was born in Malabar, Kerala. She is recognized as
one of India’s foremost poets. Her works are known for their originality,
versatility and the indigenous flavor of the soil. Kamala Das has published
many novels and short stories in English and Malayalam under the name
‘Madhavikutty’. Some of her works in English include the novel Alphabet of
Lust (1977), a collection of short stories Padmavati the Harlot and Other
Stories (1992), in addition to five books of poetry. She is a sensitive writer
who captures the complex subtleties of human relationships in lyrical idiom,
My Mother at Sixty-six is an example.
3. Central Idea
◦ The theme of the poem is ‘ageing’ which is the law of nature. It also depicts the helplessness
and aspirations of the young generation. It portrays the different stages of life and how
everybody grows old and faces various situations that life throws at them. Hence, this is the
central theme of the poem My Mother At Sixty Six.
◦ Notice that the whole poem is in a single sentence, punctuated by commas. It indicates a single
thread of thought interspersed with observations of the real world around and the way these are
connected to the main idea.
4. Poem- My Mother at Sixty-Six
Driving from my parent’s
home to Cochin last Friday
morning, I saw my mother,
doze, open mouthed, her face
ashen like that
of a corpse and realized with pain
that she was as old as she
looked but soon
put that thought away, and
looked out at Young
Trees sprinting, the merry children spilling
out of their homes, but after the airport’s
security check, standing a few yards
away, I looked again at her, wan, pale
as a late winter’s moon and felt that old
familiar ache, my childhood’s fear,
but all I said was, see you soon, Amma,
all I did was smile and smile and
The poet was driving from her parent’s home to the Cochin airport last Friday morning. Her mother was
sitting beside her. She was sixty six years old. The old lady was dozing. Her mouth remained open. Her
face looked pale and faded. It was grey like ash. It looked lifeless like a corpse (dead body).
The lifeless and faded face of her mother pained her heart. The old lady seemed to be
lost in her own thoughts. The poet turned away her attention from her mother and looked outside. The
world outside was full of life and activity. The young trees seemed running fast. The children looked happy
while moving out of their homes.
When they were at the airport, they had to undergo a security check. The
poet was standing a few yards away from her mother. She looked again at her old mother. She felt pained to
look at the colorless, lifeless and pale face of her mother. Her face looked faded like the late winter’s moon
which had lost its shine and strength. This aroused the old familiar ache in the poet’s heart. Her childhood
fear overpowered her again. However, she controlled herself. She appeared to be normal. She scattered
smiles on her face while saying good bye to her mother. She wished to see her old Amma again.
6. Key points
◦ Poetess travelling to Cochin airport with her mother in a car.
◦ Looks at the wan, pale face of her dozing mother.
◦ Old fear of loosing her mother returns.
◦ Sprinting trees and merry children provide the contrast and relief.
◦ After the security check the old familiar ache returns.
◦ Tries to hide her emotions by smiling.
◦ Bids good bye to her mother with a hope to see her again.
◦ Dose- drowsy, sleepy, to be half sleep.
◦ Ashen- very pale (of the face).
◦ Corpse- a dead human body.
◦ Spill- to run out of, to overflow.
◦ Wan- colourless, pale, sickly.
◦ Ache- pain
◦ Sprinting- running
8. Poetic Devices
◦ Rhyme scheme: It’s in a blank verse.
◦ Simile: used when an overt comparison is made between two different things.
E.g. her face ashen like that of a corpse, wan, pale as a late winter’s moon
◦ Personification: used to bestow human qualities on something that is not human.
E.g. young trees sprinting
◦ Metaphor: used when a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.
E.g. the merry children spilling out of their homes
◦ Repetition: used when a word or phrase is repeated.
E.g. I did was smile and smile and smile